Zahid not in Russia to sign arms deal

(The Sun) – An aide to Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has denied claims that he was in Russia to sign a deal to purchase fighter jets.

His media director Kol Fadzlette Othman Merican told theSun in a text message yesterday that Zahid was invited to visit Russia by its government.

“It’s a long overdue visit. He was not there to sign any deal,” she said.

Fadzlette declined to state if any negotiations took place during the visit. It is believed that this was Zahid’s first visit to Russia since being defence minister.

The Russian state news agency Ria Novosti had created a stir when it reported that Zahid might sign a contract to buy 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighters during the visit.

Zahid had recently been reported as saying that plans to purchase 18 new multi-role combat aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force had been postponed due to the lack of funds.

The Russian news agency cited a report in the Izvestia daily which said that Malaysian had plans to buy 18 fighters fit to carry the Russian-Indian Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles.

The paper, citing miitary sources, reported that Zahid would visit the Irkut aviation plant, producing Su-30MKI fighters.

Izvestia reported one such aircraft would cost Malaysia about US$50 million (RM150 million).

The minister “may sign a contract to buy 18 Su-30MKM multirole fighters,” the paper said.

The paper had said that Zahid also plans to discuss installing new missiles, including the BrahMos, on the 18 MKM fighters that Malaysia received under the US$900 million (RM270 million) contract signed in 2003.